Here’s a true conversation that happened a few nights ago:
Sam: I love you.
Me: I love you too.
Sam: Now why would that be?
Me: Because you don’t nag me…anymore.
Sam: But I used to – how long has it been?
Me: Oh, a number of years, I can’t remember. What happened? How’d you quit?
Sam: I gave it up for Lent.
Me: Really?!! Are you serious?
Sam: No, of course not! (We both laughed!)
Me: Well, how’d you do it then?
Sam: I quit judging you, that’s all.
Some of us are more prone to nag than others. People tend to think it is usually women who nag – and in my experience that is true. However, in our marriage it has been the opposite – where I am more prone to be nagged than to nag. Let’s define our terms to begin.
Nagging. Even the onomatopoeic utterance causes one to cringe. It means to banter, make repeated requests, constant reminders, use verbal cues to elicit response or action. At its core is impatience and a need to control. The goal of the nag is often to make another person do his/her bidding. It isn’t subtle – it is more overt in its attempt to manipulate.
Needless to say, it is toxic to marriage - or to any relationship. And often people resort to nagging because they just cannot figure out how to get someone else to do something. “But he won’t…” “She won’t…” Unless I nag.
I’m not going to argue with you. You may be right. Maybe your husband won’t take out the trash unless you remind him constantly. Maybe you’ll be living in absolute squalor unless you heap complaint and requests upon your spouse. Maybe you just can’t accept living with a messy and so you use nagging to accomplish your Will.
You may be right. I’ll bet the trash would sit for longer than it should. Dishes will sit unwashed longer than you’d like. Things will be messy, more than you’d like. Oh well. You choose. Would you rather a strained relationship that lacks life and love and joy and a clean kitchen? Would you rather have your spouse cringe when you enter the room, waiting for the onslaught? Or would you like to enjoy a warm, accepting relationship where you work together as a team?
I know what I’d pick.
Sam no longer nags me. He used to. Some of my habits were (are?!) annoying. Some of my lackadaisical approach to life is trying for those living with me. I’ll admit it – I’m a work in progress. I don’t proclaim this proudly – I fail on a regular basis. You may notice I don’t write posts on how to keep an organized house or how to run your calendar efficiently. Someday, maybe I’ll arrive at a modicum of ‘normal’ in these categories. But until then I’ll stick with writing on topics of marriage stress!
I only say this because I want you to know I am writing from the perspective of one who has lived with nagging and has seen it dissipate and leave room for my own growth (though slow) and a revived, warm, partnership with my husband. It IS possible to quit nagging!
I want to challenge you to take the 14 Day Challenge: To lay aside every gripe, complaint, request and effort to change your spouse. Maybe doing this for a lifetime sounds daunting. Don’t worry about the lifetime part. Just do it for 14 days. My bet is you’ll see changes you never knew were possible in yourself and your spouse and you may just want to continue the experiment.
That’s it? No – you can’t just quit saying things that are so used to rolling off your tongue. The challenge is, every time you’re about to say something that is pushy, forceful, discontent, complaining or whining, zip your lips and quote Ephesians 4:29 to yourself. I said ‘quote’ because in time, you will know it backwards and forwards. Go write it down on a small card and stick it in your pocket. If you can’t remember the words just whip it out and read it over to yourself. Your spouse may think you odd for having halting speech and pulling out a card now and then, but just do it. Don’t tell him/her you’re doing this project. Just take the reigns of your mouth and turn the bit a bit (!) until you have your tongue more under control.
But the challenge doesn’t end with just biting your tongue. Biting your tongue is painful, tiresome and difficult. It requires more of us than we may have strength to muster. So the goal is to NOT have to bite your tongue.
How so? Does that mean you get to go back to nagging?!! NOoooooo…..
It means you need to address your heart. Biting one’s tongue is difficult because we all have the urge to speak what is within us. I’d like to challenge you to take the second 14 Days to another challenge – no longer will the rule be: “No nagging.” But it will be “No thinking disparaging, complaining thoughts of my spouse.”
Scripture tells us to take every thought captive. Let’s go ahead and apply that, shall we? Here’s what it looks like:
(Thinking to herself…)
1st Thought: “Hmmm… he must not care about me. If he did he would know how much it irritates me that the toilet paper isn’t replaced at the end of the roll. I’ve told him a gazillion times!”
2nd Thought: “Well, that was downright negative of me! Quit it, brain. That thought isn’t helpful, loving, kind or productive. Let’s take that thought to the mental trash bin.” (Mentally clicks on the nasty thought and drags it to the mental trash bin).
3rd Thought: “Lord, thank you for loving me in spite of my negative outlook. Help me to love him in a way that would honour You.”
That’s what taking thoughts captive looks like.
Now, go try it. Let me know how it goes!